Fusion - The ultimate deer bullet?
By: Dan Carlson
I first heard of Federal Cartridge Company's new Fusion rifle ammunition at the 2005 SHOT Show in Las Vegas last winter.
I had a lengthy discussion with one of the company representatives about its development of a game-specific rifle cartridge specially engineered to take down deer. The following November, I was in South Dakota for a whitetail hunt and, remembering the information about the new Fusion round, decided to give it a try.
It was opening day and the weather was miserable. Snow, sleet, rain and 50-mph wind gusts teamed with temperatures falling like a rock to make being outdoors rather uncomfortable. Nonetheless, there I was, huddled against the massive trunk of a fallen oak when I spotted three deer about 300 yards away. I decided to fill one of my two tags with a meat deer and steadied my Sako .30-06, rifle topped with a variable-power Nikon scope, across the log, waiting for the shot I wanted. I was in a creek bottom with trees providing some shelter from the wind, and I took my time. The deer had no clue I was there. At 269 yards, the largest of the antlerless trio stood broadside, facing right, and stopped. With the gun set to hit 2.5 inches high at 100 yards, I knew the bullet drop information provided by Federal indicated the 165-grain bullet would hit 6 inches below point-of-aim at 300 yards, so I held just behind the shoulder. At the shot, the deer's front legs folded and it slid down a small embankment, stone cold dead.
So far, so good for the Fusion round, I thought as I went to collect my venison. I field-dressed the animal and did a detailed examination of the bullet's effect. I concluded that Federal is limiting its market for Fusion by calling it deer-specific. This is a round I would not hesitate to use on elk, black bear, antelope, caribou and maybe even moose.
The bullet first passed through a small portion of the nearside shoulder's flesh with an entry wound in the skin of about a third of an inch, as you would expect from a .30-caliber round. The track of the bullet took it through the shoulder flesh and, entering the deer's chest about 4 inches above the sternum, it broke one rib. The entry point into the chest was about 1 inch across, indicating the bullet had started to mushroom well after passing through only about an inch of hide and muscle to that point. Inside the chest cavity the top half of the animal's heart was gone and there was extensive damage to the cardiovascular system. The hit was a clean, humane, fast kill shot, the kind every hunter strives for. I was unprepared for what I saw on the side of the deer opposite the initial hit.
The exit wound was the largest I have ever seen from a .30 caliber bullet. An entire oblong section of the far-side rib cage spanning two-and-a-half ribs was gone, leaving a hole I could just about put my sizeable fist into. There was no doubt that the deer died instantaneously and that the Fusion bullet lived up to Federal's promotion of the bullet as a deer slayer, and then some.
In developing Fusion, Federal's team incorporated several innovative ideas. The bullet core is pressure-formed to achieve a balance of expansion and strength. Core and jacket separation is eliminated by bonding the two at the molecular level, fusing them if you will, giving the ammunition its name. The tip of the bullet is precisely skived in an attempt to blend expansion performance and toughness needed for penetration throughout the ranges the bullet would most likely be used in. The rear of the bullet is a boattail design for improved aerodynamic flight characteristics. Sighted in 2.5 inches high at 100 yards produces a flight path that is 1.2 inches high at 200, 6.1 inches low at 300 and 20.5 inches low at 400 yards. Energy is 2,460 ft.-pounds at 100 yards, 2,115 at 200, 1,810 at 300 and 1,540 at 400. It leaves the barrel at 2,790 fps and slows to 2,050 fps by the time it reaches 400 yards.
There is no question that Federal has achieved what it set out to do with Fusion - create a very good deer round. On the second day of my hunt I filled my other tag with a large deer and had very similar results. It dropped dead at the shot without so much as a twitch. From what I saw, Fusion can be used with confidence not only on deer, but also on any big-game animal from antelope to elk in the appropriate caliber.